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At this, all that stood around whispered to one another, wondering what it all meant, and what three men the Queen was about to set against those famous archers of the King's guard.
And now the ten archers of the King's guard took their stand again, and all the great crowd was hushed to the stillness of death.
All the archers around Gilbert's booth shouted for joy till their throats were hoarse, tossing their caps aloft, and shaking hands with one another.
"I will keep my promise," said the King, in a deep voice that showed the anger in his heart, "but when these forty days are gone let this outlaw look to himself, for mayhap things will not go so smoothly with him as he would like." Then he turned to his archers, who stood near the Sherwood yeomen, listening and wondering at all that passed.
Then the three archers of the King turned and went back to their booths, and Robin and his men went to their places at the mark from which they were to shoot.
But when the King's archers went to their tents, they told their friends all that had passed, and how that these four men were the famous Robin Hood and three of his band, to wit, Little John, Will Scarlet, and Allan a Dale.
Quoth the King grimly, to the Queen, "If thy archers shoot no better than that, thou art like to lose thy wager, lady." But Queen Eleanor smiled, for she looked for better things from Robin Hood and Little John.
"I make my vow, thou art one of the best archers that ever mine eyes beheld.
All saw that the King's archers were fairly beaten, and stout Gilbert clapped his palm to Robin's, owning that he could never hope to draw such a bowstring as Robin Hood or Little John.
The archers dropped upon one knee as he passed, but he gave them a single baleful look and was gone.
And after they were gone, the King's archers came crowding around Robin and his men, eager to get a glimpse of the fellows about whom they had heard so much.
Thus said all the King's archers, and the hand of good-fellowship was given amid much shouting and clapping on the shoulder-blades.